Thomas L. Friedman | What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“What do the left-wing San Francisco Board of Education, Donald Trump’s right-wing G.O.P. and all the deer that hang out in my neighborhood have in common? So much more than you’d think. And the future of American democracy rides on understanding why.

Let me start with the deer. The reason they are so comfortable lollygagging through our yards and multiplying like rabbits is that they know from experience that they have no predators — no hunters, no mountain lions out here in suburban Maryland. So, they do all sorts of stupid stuff, like walk into the middle of the road and get hit by cars, rub the bark off tree trunks and eat all our flowers.

Well, those deer are like the San Francisco Board of Education when it recently decided — in a self-parody of political correctness — to prioritize renaming 44 public schools that had been named for people who, it argued, had exhibited racist behaviors in their lifetimes, including Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere and Senator Dianne Feinstein. They put this task ahead of getting kids back into those schools, which have been shut for the pandemic.

Such nonsense happens because, like my deer, San Francisco’s school board has no political predators. Liberal Democrats dominate politics there, so there’s no serious threat from a conservative alternative.

That is a lot like Trump and his followers, whose attachment to him has become so cultlike that every other Republican leader knows that challenging Trump is potential political suicide. The result: He, too, has no serious predators (I don’t count a waffling Mitch McConnell). This reality, plus Trump’s warped character, made him so reckless that he believed that he could shoot a whole branch of the U.S. government in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and his base would stick with him. And he was right!

My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.

For me, that starts with getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, granting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood (they each have more U.S. citizens than Wyoming) and passing a new Voting Rights Act that forbids voter suppression. While that may sound hyperpartisan, it’s the necessary, but not sufficient, remedy for America to regain its political health.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | President Donald J. Trump: The End – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Folks, we just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics — all heated up by a pandemic without mercy.

It’s amazing that our whole system didn’t blow, because the country really had become like a giant overheated steam engine. What we saw in the Capitol last week were the bolts and hinges starting to come loose. The departure of Donald J. Trump from the White House and the depletion of his enablers’ power in the Senate aren’t happening a second too soon.

Nor is Joe Biden’s inauguration, but he has his work cut out for him. Because we haven’t even begun to fully comprehend how much damage Trump, armed with Twitter and Facebook and leveraging the bully pulpit of the presidency and the cowardice of so many who knew better, has done to our nation’s public life, institutions and cognitive immunity.

This was a terrible, terrible experiment.

It’s not that Trump never did anything good. It’s that it was nowhere near worth the price of leaving our nation more divided, more sick — and with more people marinated in conspiracy theories — than at any time in modern history. We need to be simultaneously reunited, deprogrammed, refocused and reassured. The whole country needs to go on a weekend retreat to rediscover who we are and the bonds that unite us — or at least once did.”

Ross Douthat | What Republicans Might Gain if They Lose Georgia – The New York Times

“. . .  But since prediction is often just an expression of desire, I’ll tell you what I want to happen. Even though the party richly deserved some sort of punishment, I didn’t want the G.O.P. to be destroyed by its affiliation with Trump, because I’m one of those Americans who don’t want to be ruled by liberalism in its current incarnation, let alone whatever form is slowly being born. But now that the party has survived four years of Trumpism without handing the Democrats a congressional supermajority, and now that Amy Coney Barrett is on the Supreme Court and Joe Manchin, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney will hold real power in the Senate, whatever happens in Georgia — well, now I do want Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to lose these races, mostly because I don’t want the Republican Party to be permanently ruled by Donald J. Trump.”   . . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Ross Douthat. When you are good, like today, you are often great. I disagree with the top comments for not recognizing your core point, that Trumpism is bad for the country, and therefore, bad for the Republican Party. The commenters are more or less right, that you have a blind spot about the evil of the Democrats. Any party that is so wide, it covers the center, and the far left, will have its heroes and wide-eyed radicals. Even though you are sometimes as blind as a bat, especially about the existential threat of climate change, you are brilliant in your close analysis of what patriotic Republicans should be thinking and working for in Georgia today.

Opinion | The Coronavirus Vaccine Won’t Solve Everything – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

“This should be a season of hope: We will shortly be getting a highly effective coronavirus vaccine, and the pandemic should wind down in the coming months.

Yet this is the most wretched holiday season of my life. Consider:

  • More Americans have died from Covid-19 in nine months than in combat over four years in World War II. The virus death toll exceeds 292,000, compared with 291,557 American World War II battle deaths.

  • We’re sometimes now losing more Americans from the virus in a single day than perished in the Pearl Harbor attacks or 9/11. But contrary to viral memes floating around the internet, the virus is not creating the “deadliest days” in American history: In October 1918, in a much smaller population, more than 6,000 Americans died of the Spanish flu on average each day for the entire month.

  • If American states were treated as countries, the places with the highest per capita coronavirus death rates would be: SloveniaSouth Dakota, North Dakota, Bulgaria, Iowa, Bosnia, Hungary, Croatia, Illinois, North Macedonia, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, San Marino.

A pandemic is a test of a country’s governance, and this is one the United States has failed. Much of that is on President Trump’s colossal failure of leadership, but it also reflects a deeper skepticism about science and a proclivity toward personal irresponsibility — such as refusing to wear masks.”

Opinion | Trump Contrives His Stab-in-the-Back Myth – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“The word Dolchstosslegende is hard to pronounce but important to understand. It translates as “stab-in-the-back myth” and was a key element in the revival of German militarism in the Weimar years. Even modestly educated Germans know exactly what it denotes and the evil it entails.

Donald Trump and his legal team are now contriving their own Dolchstosslegende.

That’s true even as Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election seems to descend from fantasy to farce. The main point of the exercise is no longer (if it ever seriously was) to find a judge, governor or other pliable instrument to deny Joe Biden the presidency. It is to deny the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, of the electoral system that gave him the office and of the federal and judicial systems that turned Trump’s legal challenges aside.

The point of the farce is farce. It is to make an obscene joke of the Biden administration and our constitutional system of government.

This was also the point of the Dolchstosslegende, which claimed that the German Army, though in retreat in the fall of 1918, could have kept up the fight had it not been betrayed by defeatist and scheming politicians who agreed to an armistice that November.”

What The ‘Strongmen’ Of History Reveal About Modern Politics – Ruth Ben-Ghiat – On Point – NPR CT

Play

47:1312 hours ago

What The ‘Strongmen’ Of History Reveal About Modern Politics

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat studies authoritarian regimes, like Italy under Mussolini. Can a democracy pry itself out of a strongman’s grip?

Source: On Point

David Lindsay: I just heard part of this radio interview of Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She points out that Trump is not weak, but very good, at undermining our democracy. He was never trying to be a good democratic leader. All of his nonsense have been out of the playbooks of strong men, who took over their Democracies, and sometimes ended them. All his lies and chaos have left him with 70 million fanatic, almost cult followers. He will be a great danger to our democracy in the next 70 days, and if we do not take steps to contain him, he will run again in 4 years.

My arguments to a friend and Trump Supporter on why to support Biden – by David Lindsay – Inconvenient News.net

11.02.2020

I played tennis this early morning with Mr. Migs, and since the election is tomorrow, I asked him if he did his homework. No he said, but he might tonight. Since he voted for Trump four years ago, and plans to vote for him again tomorrow, I had asked him to watch just the first 20 minutes of the first debate between Trump and Biden. He agreed to do this, but hasn’t.  Migs said he decided during the second debate between Al Gore and George W Bush, that because Gore made faces of condescension while Bush was talking, he realized that he could never vote for Gore, and therefore his vote went to Bush. The fact that Migs was an engineer for an oil company probably had more to bear on his world view than he admits.

Migs usually beats me 6-1, 6-0, but today was headed towards one of those 6-0, 6-0 days, and I decided to make my case for Biden. I mentioned that Trump was un-presidential, and damaging to our society, when he declared things that weren’t true, such as his recent tweet, that Obama ordered the 6 navy seals who supposedly killed Osama Bin Laden,  killed themselves, to hide the fact that they had not assassinated Bin Laden, but had in fact killed a body double instead. After that comment, Migs served a ball hard as he could toward my stomach, so all I could do was bounce it defensively into the netting between the indoor courts. I mentioned the powerful op-ed in the NYT on Sunday by Roger Cohen, who described how Trump was undoing all of our alliances that we forged after winning WW II, and that the great peace, or the Pax Americana, was coming to a dangerous end.

I asked him if he knew why Trump was impeached, and he said he didn’t know or remember. I reminded him that President Trump told the president of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, that the $400 Million in military aid for their hot war with Russia would be held up, unless he did Trump a favor, and announced an investigation into the corruption of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, regarding their relationships with the Burisma Gas Company.  After hemming and hawing, the young president of Ukraine finally agreed to do so, but one of the various American analysts listening in on the call reported the crime to the Justice department anonymously, under the whistle blower act. Trump had essentially committed a form of treason, by hurting the US policy to aid Ukraine in their war with Russia, unless they agreed to try and besmirch one of Trump’s expected political rivals.

I lost another hard fought game. Migs was hitting so hard, I couldn’t drive his cross court ball down the line, and keep it inside the court.  Did he know of one, Jamal Khashoggi.  No he didn’t. I explained that Khashoggi was a journalist in Saudi Arabia, who after criticizing the royal family, had to flee to the US, where he became a writer for the Washington Post, and grew more vocal in criticizing the house of Saud. While back in the middle east, he went to a Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, to get the papers to legally marry his fiancé, but he was apprehended by about 12 Saudi agents, and never heard from again.  A security film showed a man in his clothes left the building,  but it wasn’t him. The Turkish Government produced a sound tape of his torture and dismemberment by small bone saws. He was apparently packed into a small suitcase for disposal. The point, I mentioned, was that Trump refused to criticize the Saudis, and he sent a message to the world that as far as his administration was concerned, it was OK to murder journalists.

And lastly, I reminded Migs of a story I’d related months earlier, of how Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Trump to remove his  500 American soldiers from northern Syria, which he did, at Erdogan’s request, leaving our Kurdish and Syrian allies in that part of Syria unprotected. These were the fighters who had fought and over ten years had defeated ISIS with our support. The Kurds were the most democratic forces in the region. After the withdrawal, the airforces of Syria, Turkey and Russia bombed our Kurdish and northern Syria militia allies back into the stone age. It was a bloodbath, targeting schools, hospitals and mosques. It appeared that Trump was working for Putin of Russia, not for the American people. This was treason on a tragic scale. The American military leadership was caught off guard, shamed and embarrassed.

Migs, said, stop worrying, Trump has no chance, he will lose. I agreed that he was probably right.  I pointed out though, that Jeff Greenfield was on the PBS Newshour last night reporting that one forecasting group says that Biden will have to win by at least 6 percentage points, to also win the electoral college. We set our next time to play, and left each other in peace to start the work day.

Opinion | Who’s the Tax Cheat: The Lady in Jdonaldail or the Man in the White House? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Douglas Healey for The New York Times

“While reading that President Trump had claimed $70,000 in highly dubious tax deductions for hair styling for his television show, I kept thinking about a homeless African-American woman named Tanya McDowell who was imprisoned for misleading officials to get her young son into a better school district.

McDowell was sentenced to five years in prison in 2012, in part for drug offenses and in part for “larceny” because she had claimed her babysitter’s address so her son could attend a better school in Connecticut.

In some sense both Trump and McDowell appear to have cheated on their taxes. McDowell sent her son to a school district without paying taxes there. And according to The Times’s extraordinary reporting, Trump may have illegitimately claimed a $72.9 million refund that the I.R.S. is now trying to recover.

In addition, my ace Times colleague James B. Stewart reported that hair styling is not a deductible expense and that, in any case, Trump’s hair expenses for his “Apprentice” TV shows should have been reimbursed by NBC — in which case Trump may have committed criminal tax fraud.

Credit…Rose M. Prouser/CNN, via Reuters

The bottom line: We imprisoned the homeless tax cheat for trying to get her son a decent education, and we elevated the self-entitled rich guy with an army of lawyers and accountants so that he could monetize the White House as well. (Sure enough, Trump properties then charged the Secret Service enormous sums for hotel rooms and other fees while agents were protecting Trump.)

The larger point is not that Trump is a con artist, although he is, but that the entire tax system is a con. The proper reaction to the revelations about Trump’s taxes is not to fume at the president — although that’s merited — but to demand far-reaching changes in the tax code.

We interrupt this column for a quiz question: What county in the United States has the highest rate of tax audits?

The answer is Humphreys County in rural Mississippi, where three-quarters of the population is Black and more than one-third lives below the poverty line, according to ProPublica and Tax Notes. Tax collectors go after Humphreys County, where the median annual household income is $28,500, because the government targets audits on poor families using the earned-income tax credit, an antipoverty program, rather than on real estate tycoons who pay their daughters (that’s you, Ivanka!) questionable consulting fees to reduce taxes.

The five counties with the highest audit rates in the United States, according to Tax Notes, are all predominately African-American counties in the South.

Meanwhile, zillionaires claim enormous tax deductions for donating expensive art to their own private “museums” located on their own property. That’s the kind of scam that works if you’re a billionaire, but not so well if you’re my old friend Mike, who is homeless and once gave his food stamp card to a friend to buy groceries for him. The government responded by suspending Mike’s food stamps.

Tax cheats thrive because Congress has slashed the I.R.S. budget, so that the risk of audits for people earning more than $1 million per year plunged by 81 percent from 2011 to 2019. The I.R.S. has opened audits on only 0.03 percent of returns reporting income of more than $10 million in 2018 (that percentage probably will rise), according to the Center for American Progress.

Need more evidence of systemic unfairness? Trump is still holding on to the almost $73 million that he appears to have bilked out of the I.R.S. a decade ago, even though the I.R.S. is contesting his maneuvers. For wealthy people like Trump, taxes become something like a long negotiation.

An undocumented immigrant housekeeper who had worked for the Trump Organization posted tax statements on Twitter showing that she had paid more federal income taxes than Trump himself had in many years. And by one estimate, the failure of wealthy Americans to pay their fair share forces everyone else to pay an extra 15 percent in taxes.

At the same time, almost one-fifth of American families with children report that they can’t afford to give their kids enough food.

A starting point for a fairer system would be auditing the wealthy as aggressively as impoverished Black workers in rural Mississippi. The economists Natasha Sarin and Lawrence Summers estimate that 70 percent of tax underpayment is by the top 1 percent and conclude that tougher enforcement by the I.R.S. could raise $1 trillion over a decade.

Investing in the I.R.S. to go after rich tax cheats not only promotes fairness but also pays for itself: Each additional dollar spent on enforcement brings in about $24.

Remember Leona Helmsley, the wealthy hotel owner who was prosecuted for cheating on her taxes? She sadly had a point when she reportedly scoffed: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

On the bright side, Helmsley ended up in prison. I generally believe that in America we over-incarcerate, but I’m appalled that we treat a man with a gilded life and $70,000 in hair styling deductions more gently than a mom who cheats to try to give her son a better future.”   -30-

Opinion | Wish a President Well Who Doesn’t Wish You Well – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

” “Any mans death diminishes me,” wrote John Donne, “because I am involved in Mankinde.” With that thought, let us all wish Donald Trump a full and speedy recovery from his bout of Covid-19.

We wish him well because, even, or especially, in our hyperpolitical age, some things must be beyond politics. When everything is political, nothing is sacred — starting with human life. It’s a point the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century understood well.

We wish him well because the sudden death of any president is a traumatic national event that will inevitably animate every crackpot in the country. If the term “grassy knoll” still means something in America, just imagine the reaction in the QAnon world if Trump’s condition were to abruptly deteriorate after his stay at Walter Reed.

We wish him well because of Mike Pence.

We wish him well because, even as he tweets “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he could still serve as a living witness to the fact that if you stick a lot of maskless people close together you are likely to spread the virus, as it has to more than a dozen people, and counting, in his circle. Courage, says Aristotle, is the mean between rashness and cowardice. Trump may still be rash, but his followers don’t need to be.”

Opinion | Trump Calls on Extremists to ‘Stand By’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

President Trump didn’t hurt Joe Biden in Tuesday’s debate, but he badly damaged our country.

“Trump harmed the United States in three ways, reminding us that the biggest threat to America comes not from desperate migrants, not from “socialists” seeking universal health care and not from “anarchists” in the streets — but from the White House itself.

The first way in which Trump damaged the country was in his salute to violent extremists.

“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists?” Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who moderated the debate, asked Trump. Trump initially dodged the question but finally asked petulantly, “Who do you want me to condemn?”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a militant group that is fervently pro-Trump.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump declared.

Stand by?

The Proud Boys, founded in 2016, are part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a fascistic right-wing political bloc.” The Anti-Defamation League compares it to a gang. The Proud Boys’ founder once said, “I cannot recommend violence enough,” and its members have brandished guns, committed criminal assaults and engaged in rioting. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have banned Proud Boys.”